Sen. Akpabio Withdraws Case, Prepares To Challenge Re-election Loss In Tribunal

Godswill Akpabio
Godswill Akpabio

Godswill Akpabio, the former Senate minority leader, has withdrawn a suit he filed in Federal High Court, Abuja challenging his re-election loss during February 23 National Assembly election.

Consequently, he is expected to head to National Assembly Petitions Tribunal to challenge the election of Obong Chris Ekpenyong as Senator-elect for Akwa Ibom North West as confirmed by Anietie Ekong, his Special Assistant on Media.

The returing officer for the election, Peter Oban, professor who announced the result weeks ago said Akpabio scored 83,158 votes, while Ekpenyong polled 118,215 votes.

In a dramatic manner, Akpabio’s lawyer, Sunday Ameh, who announced the withdrawal of the case in court in Abuja on Friday, did not give reasons for his decision.

Akpabio filed the case despite Nigeria’s legal provision that Senatorial election disputes should be decided in the first instance by an election tribunal. Lawyers say conventional courts lack jurisdiction to hear such cases.

Regardless, the judge of the Federal Capital Territory High Court granted Akpabio’s request to restrain parties involved in the case.

On Friday, the judge, Valentine Ashi, denied restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from issuing certificate of return to the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Chris Ekpenyong, in the February 23 elections.

Ashi said the media publications suggesting that he gave such an order were “overstretching” the facts of the matter treated by his court.

According to Ashi, the nature of the application brought by Akpabio should have been clarified by the media or the lawyers who provided information to the media.

The judge explained that Akpabio’s application contained a request for an order of mandamus restraining parties and allowing Akpabio to judicially review the processes that resulted in the declaration of Ekpenyong as winner of the senatorial election.

The request for permission to review the process was granted by the court. It was that request that was later interpreted to mean that the court granted a restraining order.

Ashi said the facts of the matter were twisted.

Akpabio’s lawyer informed the court on Friday that his client had resolved to withdraw the application for judicial review.

The lawyer representing the INEC, Tanimu Inuwa told journalists that the court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the application since it is an election matter.

“When a person requests for the enforcement of his right through an order of mandamus, what it means is that once that request is granted, parties are to stay proceedings until that right has been enforced. That’s what it means,” Inuwa explained.

INEC had declared Ekpenyong, a former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom, winner of the election, against the incumbent senator, Godswill Akpabio.

Before the announcement of the election result, Akpabio had petitioned INEC, alleging that the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mike Igini, was “considering reversing the announced cancellation of result from Obot Akara”.

Ekpenyong hails from Obot Akara.